Another big European rivalry gets rekindled tonight as Chelsea welcome Barcelona for the first leg of their Champions League round of 16 tie at Stamford Bridge.
It’s a 13th meeting between the sides since they first locked horns in 2000, and the Premier League champions have the edge having won four of those encounters.
Five-time European champions Barca are looking to reach the quarter-finals for a record-extending 11th year in a row, while Chelsea, have gone beyond the first knockout round only once in the last five seasons.
The Catalans have bitter memories of their last clash with the Blues when they squandered a two goal lead to draw 2-2 at the Camp Nou as Chelsea stole their way to the title in 2012.
Ernesto Velverde’s men come in as favourites for tonight’s tie, but will be wary of the Blues who remain the only English side to edge them out of the last 6 meetings.
Also, Antonio Conte’s men have found some form with back-to-back wins after a slow start to the year, raising the prospect of another classic at the Bridge.
For Barca, the key to victory lies with talisman Lionel Messi, who, curiously, has failed to score against the Blues in 6 outings.
Messi’s strike partner Luis Suarez will be another cause for worry for Chelsea, as the Uruguayan has hit peak form after an early season lethargy, scoring 10 goals in his last 12 in all competitions in 2018.
Chelsea would once again depend on the talents of Eden Hazard going forward, in addition to their aerial advantage at both ends of the pitch.
Alvaro Morata scored as Juventus fell to Barca 3-1 in the 2015 final in Berlin, and his Madrid background may prove useful for the Blues tonight.
In his pre-match press conference, Conte said they needed to play a top game to come out on top tonight: he couldn’t be more right.
The game gets underway by 8:45pm (Local time).
It promises to be explosive…